Remember this word: Tak. It means yes in Polish. Yes is the most important word in improv, and the Polish improv stage is no different. And apparently, you can play entire scenes with that word. But more on that later.
First, let me tell you about my trip to Poland that started in Krakow, where my friend Alan lives. Our plan was to see something of his beautiful city and go out for drinks. But then a slight flu happened on my side, and heavy rain happened on his side.
Luckily we can entertain ourselves very well with chocolate soufflé and conversations about the horrors of the reply-to-all button. When later his girlfriend Iza joined, they introduced me to warm beer. It tastes much better than it sounds.
After a perfect breakfast (with cough drops that felt like I licked a Christmas tree), I continued my way to Warsaw where I met my friend Asia. This city trip was just as short and sweet, including again a lovely dinner, fancy dessert and hipster breakfast. And then whoosh, on my way again to Bydgosczc for the Improdrom festival.
In the train I sat across a lovely lady, with whom I shared personal stories and the sandwich she had made for herself. Her name was Esther and I hope to one day visit her monastery. Ow, how I love strangers.
Then the festival started in full power: I was picked up by my friend Kasia and brought to the hotel. The festival volunteers had prepared my room full of cats and kittens. Well, decorations with the word cat in different languages and pictures of kittens. So attentive!
I started with teaching a workshop Love & the Body to a group of Polish improvisers. In just 3 hours of touching, moving and improvising they grew so close. It was heartwarming to see. (Or was it the flu?)
Then over the weekend I got to teach a group of experienced improvisers my workshop Dimensions. It’s not an easy approach but the scenes became so good and the narrative so strong. I craved even more time with these folks.
Next to that I also had the pleasure of coaching a mixer team that I taught my format Stop & Dance. The 12 of them danced and played scenes like mad men. But really, those Polish improvisers are raw, wild and passionate. It was SO GOOD. It was totally worth it to hug them all afterwards and be covered in their sweat.
One of my absolute favorite moments of the festival was on Saturday night, when I joined the 4 guys of Ad Hoc on stage. In their format ‘The Voice Within’ 3 stories are told, where a voice over plays the voice in the head of the main character. Beforehand we agreed that my story would be in English, their stories would be in Polish and we could play side characters in any story.
During the show I suddenly found myself initiating a Polish scene. First loudly crying as the wife of the main character, but later even responding to his words. Well, I used the one word I knew well. Tak (yes). And later I remembered another word. Dobre (good) And that was it, that was all I could recall.
But as it turns out, if you have strong players next to you: setting you up with questions, allegations, comforting words, all you really need is the word YES. And so I did, I kept saying yes, grabbed whatever they handed me and ate whatever was in the bowl.
Despite the effort I had put in my English spoken story, afterwards all the audience wanted to talk to me about was my ‘Polish’ scene. If anything reminded us all of the power of yes, it was this scene. All you need is… Tak.
Dziękuję to all the amazing Polish people I met (and whose actual name I cannot pronounce). First and foremost Kasia and Ala for putting together such a wonderful festival. Then also Asia, Alan, Michal, Jeffrey and Janek from Ad Hoc, Iza, the festival volunteers, all the workshop participants, my mixer team and Miejskie Centrum Kultury.